Columbia Law Review Went Dark (Update)

The website now shows “website is under maintenance” where it once showed an article written by Rabea Eghbariah, a Palestinian human rights lawyer and a doctoral candidate at Harvard entitled Toward Nabka As A Legal Concept. According to the New York Times, the law review’s Board of Directors has issues.

In a statement, the board of directors, which consists of faculty members and alumni, said it had decided to suspend the website on Monday after learning two days earlier that not all of the students on the Law Review had read the essay before publication.

The board said that it had asked the editors to hold the article until June 7, to give others time to read it but that they had published it on Monday instead. The board then decided to take the website down temporarily “to provide time for the Law Review to determine how to proceed.”

On the one hand, it’s hardly a law review article, but a facile and assumptive propaganda screed containing such scholarly insights as this.

Legal theory still lacks an adequate analytical framework to describe the reality of domination and violence in Palestine. The law does not possess the language we desperately need to accurately capture the totality of Palestinian subjugation. Instead, we resort to a dictionary of misnaming, one that distorts our understanding of the problem, obfuscates its inception, and misplaces its spatial and temporal coordinates. From occupation to apartheid and genocide, the most commonly applied legal concepts rely on abstraction and analogy, revealing particular facets of subordination. While these concepts are certainly helpful, they risk distorting the variegated structure behind the Palestinian reality, and their invocation has often muted Palestinian articulations of their own experience.

And that’s the most readable and coherent paragraph in the 105-page rant. But the student editors, or at least some of them, of Columbia Law Review made the decision to publish it, and publish it as swiftly as possible so that others could not object. Should the Board have taken it down?

The board is not typically involved in the editorial decisions of the student-led organization.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time ever that the board of directors of the Law Review has intervened in any way in the publication of an article,” said Katherine Franke, a Columbia law professor who supported the piece’s publication.

“It’s a little hard for me to believe that if the article had been about anything else, the board would have cared about the process,” she added.

Indeed, the subject matter of the article, not to mention its counterfactual assumptions that needed no further citation than “oral histories” of Palestinians and articles in The Intercept, was the only explanation for its publication at all. It wasn’t the first time a variation of Eghbariah’s article was, upon review, killed.

6. I first explored the ongoing Nakba as a legal concept in a piece that the Harvard Law Review solicited, edited, approved, and then nixed. Natasha Lennard, Harvard Law Review Editors Vote to Kill Article About Genocide in Gaza, The Intercept (Nov. 21, 2023), The Nation published a full version of the piece prefaced by a note explaining the “‘unprecedented decision’ by the leadership of the Harvard Law Review to prevent the piece’s publication.” See Rabea Eghbariah, The Harvard Law Review Refused to Run This Piece About Genocide in Gaza, The Nation (Nov. 21, 2023),

On the other hand, had this article not been about the hottest topic on campus, Palestine, and not taken the ideologically correct position by siding with Palestinians and taking as a given that Israel was a colonialist apartheid state engaged in genocide, would any law review have shown any interest in this otherwise pseudo-intellectual incoherent tripe? Sure, this might fly as a thesis in a critical theory doctoral program, but in a law review? Was the problem that the article as pro-Palestinian or was the problem that it was a horribly written baseless broadside having nothing to do with law?

Does it matter?

Mr. Eghbariah called the website’s shutdown an attempt to silence his scholarship.

“What is so scary about Palestinians speaking their truth?” he said.

Palestinians speaking their truth is not the subject matter of law reviews. Then again, law reviews are student edited journals, the subject matter of which is whatever the students decide it is. And they decided Eghbariah’s article should be published.

The editors on the Review did use a “somewhat irregular process” in editing the piece, “Toward Nakba as a Legal Concept,” because they were concerned about censorship, Professor Franke said. Students involved in the editing said that among the roughly 100 people involved with the journal, they had created a smaller committee to solicit and select the piece, a procedure the Review does not always use.

That committee defended the process. In a statement, it said that the article “went through at least six rounds of intensive editing and fact-checking over several months to prepare for publication. Thirty editors collectively spent hundreds of hours working on the article — numbers consistent with other articles the Review publishes.”

By circumventing the usual process because “they were concerned about censorship,” they acknowledge that this was an article that stood a possibility of being rejected by editors or faculty who didn’t share Prof. Katherine Franke’s ideological perspective as a racial justice and gender and sexuality law scholar. Then again, it was not merely an obviously controversial article, but one that struck a blow for the most unduly passionate activists on the Columbia Law Review editorial staff.

It was gibberish, unworthy of publication in any law review. That at least 30 of CLRs editors and Franke thought it worthy of publication anyway is a reflection on the state of legal academia. Not a good reflection. But nonetheless, having done so, the Board should not have pulled the plug, but rather exposed it for the public ridicule it so richly deserved. And hung their heads in shame that these are the best law student editors Columbia Law School could produce.

Update: The CLR website is back up, and Eghbariah’s article remains. The CLR Board issued a statement:

The Columbia Law Review Board of Directors received multiple credible reports that a secretive process was used to edit Toward Nakba As a Legal Concept. Some individuals reporting exclusion expressed concerns with the process and the denial of their opportunity to provide input. The Review’s editorial processes are intended to allow all members to engage with the scholarship that the Review publishes and with one another. That engagement is central to the Review’s twin aims of publishing the highest quality legal analysis and educating the next generation of lawyers. Upon learning of this exclusion, the Board of Directors sought to delay publication by several days to permit the excluded members to read the piece and engage with their colleagues before the piece was published. But the piece was published immediately despite the Board’s effort. The Board of Directors traditionally has no role in deciding what scholarship the Review publishes, including this piece. Rather than delay the publication of the May issue any further, the Board of Directors memorializes for now its concerns with the process and its long-term goal of protecting the integrity of the Review. The Board of Directors looks forward to engaging further with the Administrative Board on this matter.

12 thoughts on “Columbia Law Review Went Dark (Update)

  1. Skink

    Law school requires the ability to draft coherent sentences into paragraphs. How did he succeed if this is how he does it? But there’s more. Among his “Academic Appointments and Fellowships:

    Harvard Law School, Graduate Program Fellow, Writing Workshop Advisor (2023-2024)
    Harvard Law School, Graduate Program Fellow, Writing Workshop Advisor (2022-2023)

    I employed the Skink Fake-O-Rama Detection Machine. This was purposely written as jumble to ensure rejection.

    Reply
    1. Drew Conlin

      Skink, Two things come to mind. Your contention that the author never intended his article be published reminded me of the movie “ The producers”. As most likely know the premise was to produce an
      Awful play knowing it would not ever be staged. Of course it was.
      Unrelated I shouldn’t be surprised when I ask of Columbia the same I asked of Harvard_ What the hell are they teaching those students ??

      Reply
    2. Pedantic Grammar Police

      “Law school requires the ability to draft coherent sentences into paragraphs.”

      You’re dating yourself. Writing coherently is a relic of the patriarchy. The primary qualification for modern lawyers is the ability to regurgitate woke ideology.

      Reply
  2. Hal

    The word salad, in the paragraph from Mssr. Eghbariah that you quoted, reminded me of something the late Erwin Corey might have said… on an off day.

    I think there’s a corollary to Ned Stark’s admonition, “Everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit”. This being, “Anytime someone speaks of ‘their truth’, it’s not the truth” or as Stark would say “bullshit”.

    Reply
  3. Richard the Lawyer

    Whether the article is bullshit is not the issue. Shutting down the website is a blatant act of viewpoint censorship, and our host is apparently always ok with that, as long as it’s critical of his beloved can-do-no-wrong Israel. That’s one more First Amendment exception….

    [Ed. Note: If you read to the end, you might avoid leaving a stupid comment.

    But nonetheless, having done so, the Board should not have pulled the plug, but rather exposed it for the public ridicule it so richly deserved.

    You’re welcome.]

    Reply
    1. Michael Miller

      Dear Host,

      This article made me sad.

      Your edit to this reply made me happy.

      I recognize that my emotional state should not depend on your blog, but thank you.

      Reply
    2. Miles

      This wouldn’t be a First Amendment issue regardless, and yet our host still took the position that the article should have been published (and tacitly that the website shouldn’t have been shut down because of its publication). It’s hard to read that when your eyes are filled with righteous outrage and you can’t wait to play “gotcha”.

      Reply
    3. Pedantic Grammar Police

      This is a perfect example of the kind of thinking that leads to success as a modern lawyer. Especially the part about the First Amendment. Knowing what the amendments say is unnecessary and maybe even counterproductive; what’s essential is the ability to creatively interpret them to support the cause de jour.

      Reply
  4. Elpey P.

    “‘we resort to a dictionary of misnaming, one that distorts our understanding of the problem'”

    Maybe there’s room for common ground.

    Nuking the whole site instead of the article and only hearing one side of the story raises suspicions about who is really doing this and why.

    Reply
    1. Elpey P.

      I didn’t do enough digging before posting (though the fact that it was required is usually a red flag), and have now found the board statement posted on twitter where in their own words they takes responsibility for the shutdown. Provocation achieved.

      Reply

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